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Updated 23 Jan 2010, Sept 2013, 12 Oct 2015

Perceived Rates of Violence are Apparently Associated with Religion when driven by psycho-sociopathic personalities. The religious involvement is not new to us. It is a fact of history most of us would deny from our conscience. See for example: Religious Tolerance for a list of atrocities from 1450 CE to 1903. Violence arises from other causes as well and some are discussed on this reference.

If Humanity does not change, it will destroy itself.
H G Wells

  • Core Instigators: Sociopathic religious and secular extremists. Such people are quite able to hijack any hierarchical organization, such as a religion, business, or national government.
  • Core Issues: On the causation side: Who's god is God? Who will rule the world? On the curative side: How can human population levels be limited to what the biosphere can safely sustain on both the local and world levels?
  • Nature's Contribution: Will one society dictate to and subjugate all other societies in its fight for survival? This may be the way nature would have it, but is it right? (Our latest thinking here is that it is largely the Sociopath Next Door hijacking or co-opting hierarchical organizations and societies comprised predominantly of Authoritarian Personalities at individual, family, community, state and world levels. For the American body politic, this involves an evolution from Manifest Destiny to American Interests -- a switch that is easy enough.)
  • Core Solutions: These are manifold toward a goal where sufficient equality reigns within and among societies where both alienation and humiliation are relegated to the dustbin of history. The present world hegemony can play a vital role in getting this process started. Is it? Hardly; history will tell. But we are in a new age where we can indeed direct our fate. See the series Peace Via Nature's way for a condensation of what we have learned from the works of many others.

Terror in the Name of God by Jessica Stern is a must-read by anyone who cares about the future of humanity. Any scholar of terrorism will find new information in Ms. Stern's readable and engaging book. She obtained most of her data directly from the terrorists themselves. Ms. Stern provides deep insights into why Judaism, Christianity and Islam spawn so much violence. Ms Stern is not an armchair pundit; she traveled extensively to personally and courageously interview big-time terrorists for herself. By her own admission, she became a new person from the experience. Her findings are at once sobering, persuasive of the problem and encouraging -- with understanding of a problem can come control. Some excerpts follow:

    "Writing this book has helped me to understand that religion is a kind of technology. It is terribly seductive in its ability to soothe and explain, but it is also dangerous. Convents such as the one I visited as a child may make good people better, but they don't necessarily make bad people good. They may even make bad people worse."

In discussing Elaine Pagels' "The Origins of Satan," Stern goes on:

    "Pagels tells us that the evolving image of Satan [in the Hebrew Bible] served "to confirm for Christians their own identification with God and to demonize their opponents -- first other Jews, then pagans, and later dissident Christians called heretics." [And today the Christian Right often demonizes people who are gay for genetic, or early-social, reasons, as well as Islam.] "The use of Satan to represent one's enemies lends to conflict a specific kind of moral and religious interpretation," she [Pagels] argues, "in which 'we' are God's people and 'they' are God's enemies, and ours as well.... Such moral interpretation of conflict has proven extraordinarily effective throughout Western history in consolidating the identity of Christian groups; the same history also shows that it can justify hatred, even mass slaughter,' she observes. [Referencing Martha Nussbaum, Making Philosophy Matter to Politics.] This is the way religious terrorists view the world. ..."

Islam also suffers the Judeo-Christian disease. This is how religious extremists behave. Stern again:

    "What is so deeply painful about terrorism is that our enemies, whom we see as evil, view themselves as saints and martyrs. As such, religious terrorism is more than a threat to national security. It is psychological and spiritual warfare, requiring a psychologically and spiritually informed response..."

    "Participants in the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the kamikaze suicide-bombing raids all understood the appeal of purifying the world through murder.... This powerful yearning for bliss cannot be denied if we are to fight 'terror in the name of God,' the gravest danger we face today in a world of nuclear weaponry."

Stern could not be more right. We are sure that even the Bush II Administration would agree -- publicly. Their actions, however, fully affirmed they would rather "bring on" the danger than try to fix the fundamentals. In fact they said as much on national media. Their political instincts are simply animalistic and authoritarian. Their goal was plutocratic dominance of the world through a new imperialism.

As long as followers believe, a leader can get away with anything, anything at all!

If we are serious about doing something about the roots of terror, there is plenty of fodder for further study on this website and resource references. Social conditions conducive to peace are well outlined by Varshney in his book, "Ethnic Conflict & Civil Life." It is a must-read for the scholar, statesperson, and citizen alike who are concerned with or worried about terror in our times. What Varshney found is a way society can live with its Authoritarian self. His findings seem to explain the differences in violence between Washington DC and Honolulu as well as between Baltimore and El Paso. Tokyo, the world's largest metro area, is likewise very peaceful compared with other large cities. There, we think the Varshney factors are operating--population homogeneity and religious tolerance. Of course these features extend Varhsney's thesis in that integration, because of Tokyo's homogeneity, is even more complete than in the Indian cities Varshney studied. Many, maybe most, Japanese are also tolerant of religion; they may believe in two or more! And it works. See Peaceful Cities for more discussion by a native Japanese observer.

While Varshney provides a road map for reducing social strife in bimodal societies, Stern delves further into the religious (primarily monotheistic) causes of social strife.

Unless we understand terrorism at its most basic levels, we shall never control it.

For the statesman, what not to do is well illustrated in Barbara Tuchman's book "March of Folly" and by the Bush trajectory of repeating Tuchman's historical theme. While Obama may have avoided some of the follies, if there is a clear distinction between statesmanship and politics, it is in this very area.

Statesmen rise above the emotionally driven fray. [Ghandi and Mandella]

Politicians characterize every fray as Armageddon, apparently to maintain their own control. [Bush II and Neocons]

On Line Research

What immediately follows is the result of a couple of hours surfing the Internet for the purpose of finding what, if any, differences there are among "religions" in their association with violence, whether instigating or receiving. Either way a report of violence on a web site is considered a unit of violence for this study. We addressed the associations by employing three search engines using standard phrases. We hope our illustrations and discussion of the details will encourage further research.

We compared eight "religions" with one another, using three of the most efficient search engines on the Internet. Our protocol employed the word violence and five other related words in the format: "religion and word," for example: "Buddhism and terror." Each website [URL] returned was counted as an event. The assumption is that the frequency of these word associations relates to the violence a religion is actually involved in. The latter is newsworthy and written about. Our survey was done in November 2003

The number of events per million per religion was calculated with the following ranking.

Table 1
Religions Ranked By Propensity toward Violence

Religion Events Adherents Millions Events / Million
Judaism 255 14 18.2
Islam 16653 1300 12.8
Christianity 2044 2000 1.02
Buddhism 319 360 0.89
Sikhism 10 23 0.43
Atheism 135 850 0.16
Hinduism 55 900 0.061
Confucianism 12 225 0.053

The above table becomes more meaningful when normalized to multiples of atheism violence as shown below.

Table 2
Religious Violence Ranking Normalized to Atheism.

Religion Multiples of Atheism
Judaism 113.8
Islam 80.0
Christianity 6.38
Buddhism 5.56
Sikhism 2.69
Atheism 1.00
Hinduism 0.381
Confucianism 0.331

This table is descriptive. What it means is another matter. Like all surveys, its accuracy depends on the sample size, or events shown, which varies for several reasons. Nevertheless, on a per capita basis, the highest/lowest ratio is some 340, while the next highest/next lowest ratio (Islam/Hinduism) is 210. These could hardly be accidental given the effectiveness of world information retrieval in our time.

That Christianity seems to get off lightly here is an artifact of our times. There is plenty in Christian history to be concerned about, the Crusades, the many European wars, the Inquisition, Witch Hunters, and in our most recent time, Bosnia, North Ireland, and Zionism--behind the scenes. Christians seem to have a short memory; their history is especially bloody and depraved. See Witch Hunts for ten reasons why witches should be put to death.

The Buddhists are not violent but they can be violated. Buddhists are also peace activists and often get in harm's way. Atheism would have scored much higher in Stalin's time. Nevertheless, the history of organized terror has largely been the history of monotheism. It is certainly significant that reports of violence involving Jews were some 340 times those for Confucianism. The religious group that first and formally practiced terror as it is practiced today is Judaism, nearly two millennia ago. See Religious Terrorism for more of the history.

How can anyone account for a religion not only allowing witch hunting, but engaging in it for half a millennium?
What were lay societies doing about the extremists of their times?

Table 3
Monotheism Compared With Eastern Religions

Belief System Events Adherents-Millions Events / Million
Monotheism 18952 3314 5.70
Eastern Religions 396 1508 0.26
Atheism 135 850 0.16

Normalizing the rank order to Atheism = 1, shows monotheism to be some 35 or so multiples more violent than atheism.

Table 4
Religion and Atheism Relative Rank For Violence

Belief System Events / Million
Monotheism 35.6
Eastern Religions 1.6
Atheism 1.0

This ranking is a most disturbing result for the monotheists. Is each monotheism more interested in dominating the others than in doing something about the violence their own extremist members initiate under one religious guise or another. Yet most monotheism adherents deeply believe theirs is a peaceful religion. Monotheism simply does not assure a peaceful society. Like democratization of totalitarian societies, reforms in the monotheisms can only come from within. And therein lies the difficulty. Schisms divide every religion; many came about ostensibly as reforms. Others occur as reactions of the obedient conventionals among us to the inspired, the charismatic Authoritarian or psycho-sociopath. The propensity to believe is nature; nurture takes it from there. The masses follow, new religions form, each with a new set of traditions, and this continues in our times.

Why the disconnect? Could it be that Monotheism itself is an expression of the Authoritarian Personality?

Could it be that most of us are in denial, ignorant of the facts, unthinking, or what? If we could answer these questions, we would have an improved understanding of violence, terror and war and view of possible ways forward.

We can now be fairly certain that both religious and sectarian strife arises from the sociopathic individuals who hijack movements of whatever character and subvert them to their own ends that too often lead to violence.

Tentatively, we can offer Hope Provided by Nature as an avenue forward. Like terror in the world, and Violence in American Cities , there is a wide range in the degrees by which "religions" are associated with violent activities in the Internet-accessible literature. Events reported for Judaism are over 340 times as frequent as for Confucianism. Atheism is well below the middle of the pack. Monotheisms, as a group of religions, reported 5.7 events per million adherents while the four Eastern religions/philosophies averaged about 0.26 reported events per million. Monotheisms are some 22 fold more violent than the Eastern Religions and about 36 times more violent than atheism. Eighteen times as many web sites pair violent words with Judaism as with Christianity when normalized by number of adherents.

These results can hardly be all accidental. They reflect bad guys in the extremist wings. In this respect, monotheism is a lot like politics and business--a few extremists give the rest a bad name. A tiny fraction highjack the reins of power and cause havoc far beyond their numbers.

Basically, monotheists cannot agree on whose God is God and for the sociopathic Authoritarians who can co-opt religions, that issue provides ready-made platforms to do their dirty work. Monotheism, in such practice, is all about power in this world, not salvation in the next.

Organized secular violence also occurs; historically it is nearly as frequent as religion. Fundamentally, secular violence has the same roots as religious violence: charismatic sociopaths who co-opt organizations and societies. Stalin's Communism was, in a practical sense, a religion, as was Hitler's Nazism. Ordinary people bought into each with all their hearts and souls.

These numbers find support and plausible explanation from several of our web pages on this site. See in particular:

Authoritarian personality -- This personality is encouraged by monotheism, which fits the high numbers above.

Global Issues -- deals with the Iraq crisis in an psycho-historic context, with Sociopathic Authoritarianism at the core.

Solutions -- Ashutosh Varshney found a marvelous insight into the causes of social violence between Hindus and Muslims. Social integration at all levels in society substantially reduces the incidence of violent social unrest. The Eastern Religions benefit from being more accepting than the monotheisms.

Zionism -- A movement that led to the confrontation in Palestine that is still going on. Zionists and Palestinians are both frequent terror perpetrators and victims; hence the high numbers observed for Judaism and Islam in our times should be no surprise.

We think the Authoritarian Personality, when extreme, has much to do with both religion and violence. This is as much a social issue as it is psychological. The potential for terrorism is genetic and intrinsic. Any humiliating social or psychological event brings an individual's potential for terrorism into reality. From there, terror becomes a simple matter of wherewithal. There is a paper-thin membrane between our peaceful and violent selves as illustrated by Milgram and Zimbardo. The effects of brain washing on American soldiers captured during the Koran War, as well as the jailors at Abu Ghraib, are historic examples of how thin this barrier is. Together, these events shoe how important it is to give each new generation a strong Internal Locus of Control in balance with an External Locus of Control.

Search Results

Date: 5 Nov 2003

Search Format Used: ["religion and 'term'"]

Search Example Used: "Buddhism and terror"

Events = Number Sites returning data.

Religious Adherents Resource:

  • Survey details of three leading search engines.
  • Paired search-words appear in the headings and left column.
  • Incidences appear in the intersections.

Table 5
Incidence of Violence by Religion

ALTAVISTA Buddhism Christianity Islam Judaism
Terror 1 1 176 2
Terrorism 2 17 2112 0
Violence 29 125 413 13
277 470 10
2 3 0
Genocide 0 8 2 8
Sub Tot 56 430 3176 33
GOOGLE Buddhism Christianity Islam Judaism
Terror 1 1 616 1
Terrorism 2 32 5620 3
Violence 78 288 979 27
War 99 624 1160 16
Murder 0 5 9 2
Genocide 0 20 7 30
Sub Tot 180 970 8391 79
TEOMA Buddhism Christianity Islam Judaism
Terror 2 1 249 1
Terrorism 0 28 3350 10
Violence 37 162 679 24
War 44 420 798 77
Murder 0 5 7 3
Genocide 0 28 3 28
Sub Tot 83 644 5086 143
Total Events 319 2044 16653 255
Adherents-millions 360 2000 1300 14
Events / million 0.89 1.02 12.81 18.21

Table 6
Incidence of Violence by Religion

ALTAVISTA Hinduism Atheism Confucianism Sikhism
Terror 2 0 0 0
Terrorism 0 6 0 2
Violence 6 4 0 0
War 6 10 3 0
Murder 0 2 0 0
Genocide 0 2 0 0
Sub Tot 14 24 3 2
GOOGLE Hinduism Atheism Confucianism Sikhism
Terror 3 1 0 0
Terrorism 3 9 0 4
Violence 11 10 0 0
War 12 38 6 1
Murder 0 8 0 0
Genocide 0 2 0 0
Sub Tot 29 68 6 5
TEOMA Hinduism Atheism Confucianism Sikhism
Terror 1 0 0 0
Terrorism 1 8 0 3
Violence 10 10 0 0
War 9 19 3 0
Murder 0 6 0 0
Genocide 0 0 0 0
Sub Tot 12 43 3 3
Totals 55 135 12 10
Adherents-mil 900 850 225 23
Events / million 0.061 0.158 0.053 0.43

Notes on validity of data:

Three search engines selected for efficiency of search were used to minimize the sampling error from search engine differences. Google returned the most web sites, AltaVista the least.

Web sites will differ in many ways and the search engines employ various algorithms to find them. This variable was not controlled.

Website focus and the word associations used are a function of several things including the owner's bias, information available and its quality, and interpretations possible. For example, Atheism rate would have been influenced by the WWII era if Stalin and Hitler are classed as atheists. There is certainly a time-related variable. It was not controlled, but our samples are relatively current. And the Eastern four religions may suffer underreporting in terms of information available relative to three monotheisms now in such heavy conflict. These variables also were not controlled.

Biased reporting distorts what the web masters, with their own biases, have to work with. Terror in North Ireland is all Christian, with reporting likely to be biased such that the religious issue is/was played down. Christian Serb terror in Islamic Bosnia seems not often to have been reported as an affect of religion on terror. So the Christian aspect of terror may have been underreported by a largely Christian press. If so, our conclusion would only be strengthened, violence and monotheism seem to go hand in hand.

Underreporting from Africa, Asia, and South America is another potential source of error. African terror events do not get onto the Internet with the same frequency as do events from Middle Eastern or Western countries.

Some of the word pairings might have a meaning opposite to the assumption; for example, Judaism and Islam can be both victim and perpetrator, or have a favorable or unfavorable effect on violence. In many such cases, both the victim and perpetrator would be mentioned. Still, our standard pairings of the search words requiring 'and' between them, such as "Buddhism and terror," should tend to balance out this error.

The religions themselves are disparate. Many people, for example, classify Buddhism and Confucianism as philosophies and Atheism as the lack of religion. One thing all monotheisms provide is guidance for daily living while promising the equivalent of life everlasting and a purpose behind it all. Philosophies, that are influential culturally, similarly provide guidance for the here and now.

Alternate definitions can themselves be interpreted and researched with conclusions similar to those we draw; violence and the the sons and daughters of Abraham seem to go hand in hand. That does not mean a direct cause and effect. What seems to seal the association is that extremists find it easy to hijack, even subvert a monotheism. That is much harder to do with philosophies that not organized by hierarchy. See John Dean for a political impact, and Martha Stout for how sociopathic Authoritarianism works on the individual level.

The elevated frequency of association of Buddhism (relative to the other Eastern "religions") with words of violence doubtless is caused mostly by their being caught in the middle of violent acts between others. Nevertheless, "research" such as reported here should always be tested against reality. For example, even Buddhists can rebel violently against oppression. It appears that the Middle East has become a holy war of attrition.

Experts concur that the Eastern "minor religions" are indeed more peaceful than are the monotheisms. Since the patterns observed here are consistent with the experts, other pages on this site, and the Internet, we believe the rank order is at least approximately right and that monotheism relates to terrorism more strongly than do the Eastern "religions or philosophies." It seems clear that the root cause of the religion/terror association is due to the sociopathic Authoritarian personality.

Finally, while the statistics cannot prove any specific cause and effect, the data still must be accounted for via cause(s) and effect(s). Varshney in his book, "Ethnic Conflict & Civil Life," has made a good start and so has Jessica Stern in her book, "Terror in the Name of God." Authoritarianism is a basic feature underlying the observations of both Stern and Varshney.

While the actual numbers we generated are in fact somewhat suspect, their large count and their extreme and "highly significant" differences in frequencies found, nevertheless, require serious attention be given to possible interpretations and explanations. Serious research is strongly needed.

What kind of a world do you think would result if all the capital consumed by war was instead spent on researching the causes of violence and implementing the findings?

This is the situation folks. Now, why is it so?


Authoritarian Personalities, especially when sociopathic, behave in ways consistent with the above tables. Since all three monotheisms are basically authoritarian in their structures and teaching, while the Eastern religions are not, these considerations lead to the virtually certain conclusion that authoritarianism, when extreme--as in the case of sociopaths (up to one in twenty-five of all of us)--does indeed give rise to violence, as in the Middle East and Africa in our times.

Furthermore, the connection between terror and religion has been apparent to many for a long time. Much has been written and much has found its way to links on the Internet. Some follow.

  • Mission Connections -- "Religion is a powerful force in Indonesia and has played a part in much of the violence, as well as in attempts to stop it."
  • Professor John Hull -- "To have a religion to fall back on means being exempt from the normal standards of human rights. ...every major world religion and many minor ones are associated with terror."
  • Boston Globe --"When President Bush last week signed the bill outlawing the torture of detainees, he quietly reserved the right to bypass the law under his powers as commander in chief."
  • Terror In The Name Of God -- CBS News. "The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm: 'I'm deeply concerned that the war and, in particular what is perceived as an inept occupation, is bringing together a wide variety of groups that actually have different goals because they have a common enemy. And in Iraq, U.S. troops are a much easier target than they are in Afghanistan.'"

Rosemary Radford Ruether, Carpenter Professor of Feminist Theology, Pacific School of Religion, sums up her attitude toward the religious crises in the world today as follows:

"I see religious faith in crisis throughout the world as we cope with traditions that have mediated patriarchy, hierarchy and domination of nature [Authoritarian behaviors largely] . I hope with many others to help develop new visions of faith that can help us transform our relations to each other and to the world around us in ways that are mutual and life sustaining."

How this plays out on today's American political arena may be summarized as follows:

We have declared that a war between good and evil has begun. Our language in fact mirrors that of the Islamic fundamentalists. Mr. Bush declared: "I am a War President" on national television.

The Bush Administration's utterances stirred the same emotions that those of the Popes did in their crusading days. He apparently believed in his own absolute rightness and goodness and that of his Neocon cohorts. In view of the Neocon Manifesto, war on some ground must always be on the national agenda.

How can one explain these utterances other than as those of sociopathic Authoritarians?


Our findings are consistent with the expert views that the three monotheisms are siimply more violent than atheism or the Eastern religions or philosophies. What may be new in our work is the extraordinarily violent effects that sociopathic personalities can and do exert the world over. The picture is far from simple, but it does seem clearer now than it was on 9/11.

Nevertheless this feature leaves a troubling issue for humanity: If monotheism does give rise to violence, would peace result if only one monotheism were left to impose its will after an Armageddon style conflagration? We think not. Look at their histories. Each of the major monotheisms has, over time, splintered into sects. In effect they behave as if, "my god is better than your God" is their byline--driven by the Authoritarian Personality -- hijacked by sociopaths, As Martha Stout would have it. John Dean adds the political dynamics. Milgram and Zimbardo highlight the fragility of our very personalities.

Monotheisms not only fight each other, they fight among themselves. And that is a hallmark of the hijacking sociopathic Authoritarian Personality. Adorno labeled it and Milgram showed its presence in American society. Zimbardo amply demonstrated just how easy it is to subvert otherwise stable personalities. All this was after Hitler embodied the personality type Adorno labeled -- Authoritarianism.

We [Americans] are violent.
That is why we don't ban guns.

- Kris Rosenberg -

Truer words were never spoken. For more on religion and terror see: Psychology of Religion and 9/11

DISALLOWED ( For additional history on Genocide see: Atrocities 1450 CE to the end of World War II.

Often overlooked is the genocide of the native Americans. For insights into their survival see: Genocide of the Mind

For extensions of this line of research see:

Polarized World in '03; Worse Now and
Religion, Violence, and Sociopathology and also The Five Pillars for a simplification of what it means to be human.

Finally, serious researchers are digging into the anthropology of religion. See: "Birth of the Moralizing GODS: Science, VOL 349, ISSUE 6251, 28 Aug 2015. This is by no means the end of our quest, but a significant start has been made by serious people doing science.

MACHINE TRANSLATE: This or any other page: Download Babylon )


Comment from a member [enorton2] elsewhere on this site:

"I also note that mono-political systems, such as Communism and Fascism, are just as violent as some of the mono-theists. To name a few:

Baathists - 1 million dead
Stalinist - 20+ million dead
Maoists - 30+ million dead
Nazis - 25+ million dead
Khmer Rouge - 1+ million dead
Shining Path - tens of thousands
Taliban - tens of thousands
Sudanese government - 1 million???
Al Qaida - thousands so far

Each of these groups, and many others, have given humankind the stark choice of converting to their particular philosophy or enslavement and/or death."

Posted by RoadToPeace on Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 13:04:46

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